Friday, January 22

Dylan Dog: the hit Italian horror comic set in London unknown in the UK | Comics and Graphic Novels

THere’s a breakfast cafe called Dylan Dog at 7 Craven Road, near Paddington Station in West London. For most patrons, it’s just another place for coffee and eggs, wedged into a busy street between the most elegant stucco-fronted terraces and plazas in the area.

But for Italians, the address is no less magical than platform 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter, or 221b Baker Street from Sherlock Holmes. For issue 7, Craven Road is home to Dylan Dog himself, a fictional investigator of the paranormal, the protagonist of an Italian horror comic series with more than 60 million copies sold worldwide. And yet, perhaps the biggest unsolved mystery about Dylan Dog is that, to his London neighbors, he’s almost unknown.

Tiziano Sclavi, the Italian writer and cartoonist who created Dylan Dog
Tiziano Sclavi, the Italian comic book writer and artist who created Dylan Dog. Photograph: Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

But the 67-year-old Italian comic book author Tiziano Sclavi, who created the detective in 1986, is not offended, as he has never set foot in the UK himself.

“I’ve never been to London,” Sclavi told The Guardian in his first interview with the foreign press. “I have never been on a plane and never will. As for the train, my claustrophobia would probably give me a heart attack in the Chunnel. I can drive, but I hardly do it anymore. I’m even worried about the 1km drive to the neighboring town to get my groceries. But in my dreams, I have been to London many times ”.

Claustrophobia and the fear of flying are just some of the obsessions Sclavi has passed on to Dylan Dog, whose adventures have been translated into more than 10 languages. Dog, a 30-year-old ex-Scotland Yard officer and recovering alcoholic, is a private detective investigating unusual cases that border on reality and the paranormal. He is impulsive, troublesome, and unsure of himself and the world. His trusted partner and best friend is Groucho Marx, inspired by the American comedian, and the two share a house full of monstrous gadgets and a bell that makes a terrifying sound.

Dylan Dog number 25
Dylan Dog Issue 25; Sclavi’s London is the result of years of study. Photography: Sergio Bonelli Editore

“I chose seven because it is a magic number,” says Sclavi of Dog’s address. And Craven is a dedication to horror filmmaker and actor Wes Craven. Only years later, an illustrator who had lived in London told me that Craven Road really exists. “

Dylan Dog’s London is understandably a bit vague, almost dreamlike, the result of years of study. “In Dylan Dog’s early years, in the 1980s and 1990s, it was not easy to find documentation of the places he needed to describe. I consulted several books, but it was difficult to give them to illustrators, some of whom lived far away. This is why my first descriptions of London didn’t show many genuine sights, other than Big Ben and London Bridge. Everything is much easier now. All I do is search for an image online and forward the link to the illustrator, ”he said. “I must add, however, that I have ‘lived’ in London often, as a fan of Monty Python, Top Gear, Richard Curtis… and also through English literature, music and film, which always makes me feel like at home. Both myself and my wife dream of one day becoming subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. “

Il Gigante, number 156
Il Gigante, number 156. Setting horror adventures in England was “an obvious choice,” says Sclavi. Photography: Sergio Bonelli Editore

Sclavi said setting the horror adventures of Dylan Dog in the land of Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an obvious choice. “The UK is often imagined as a land of ghosts, fairies and mysteries,” he explains. And then there is the fog, the fog is one of the symbols of the occult and fear. Although recently in Italy there has been a proliferation of authors of thrillers, my country has never been synonymous with the horror genre. There I would put any other kind of story. And let’s face it, if my character’s name was Quagliarulo instead of Dylan Dog, who would buy it?

The connection between Dylan Dog and the UK is not simply a matter of environment; There are also countless film and literary references, starting with another famous detective who lives at 221B Baker Street, coincidentally less than a mile from Craven Road.

“Dylan and Sherlock Holmes are very different characters, but they also have a lot in common,” says Sclavi. “Conan Doyle was fascinated by the occult and the paranormal. I thought of Holmes when Dylan needed to play a musical instrument. I chose the clarinet over the violin, which was Holmes’s instrument. And instead of the seven percent solution, I thought about turning my character into a recovering alcoholic. “

Scenes from a Dylan Dog Mystery
Dog is a former Scotland Yard officer in his thirties. Photography: Sergio Bonelli Editore

One of Dylan’s phrases is also inspired by Holmes: “When all possible hypotheses have been exhausted, what remains is the impossible, which is my province.”

The physical attributes of Dylan Dog, published by Sergio Bonelli Editore, are inspired by the British actor Rupert Everett, who in 1994 played the main role in the film Cemetery Man, based on the novel Dellamorte Dellamore by Sclavi. His name, Dylan, is inspired instead by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. “I read his poems when I was a child and I really liked them. And then there was his life as an alcoholic, like mine and Dylan’s. ”Aside from a slight relapse in the early 2000s, Sclavi has been sober since 1987.

Sclavi left Milan in the early 2000s to live on a wooded estate on the Swiss border and now leaves home almost exclusively to take his seven dachshunds to the vet.

Dylan Dog number 363, Sew Perdute
Dylan Dog’s physical attributes are inspired by Rupert Everett, who played the title role in the film Cemetery Man based on Sclavi’s novel Dellamorte Dellamore. Photography: Sergio Bonelli Editore

“For more than 20 years, with few exceptions, I have not read newspapers or watched television,” he says. “I am not practically informed, but the news I hear is terrifying. It seems to me that we live in a horrible world, and in a particularly repulsive country: Italy ”.

Despite the fact that he hardly ever leaves his house, Sclavi has used his character to support a myriad of social causes, including the fight against AIDS, drug abuse and pet neglect. Recently, he urged people to stay indoors to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“Dylan loves and protects anyone who is ‘different’, weak, marginalized or migrant. Its motto is ‘U.S are the monsters’; that is, anyone who calls himself normal. Dylan is an advocate for inclusion. In short, even a horror comic can do good things. “

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